Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is credited with saying, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”
Wise advice. But it’s certainly OK to judge the seeds you use by the harvest they eventually produce. By focusing on non-GMO heirloom seeds, you dramatically increase your chances of growing great tasting and nutritious food in your garden.
Here is the fourth in a series of recommendations on starting and nurturing a wide variety of plants that will flourish from your seeds.
Radish Champion: Direct sow these seeds outside in the early spring. They can also be planted in the fall. Plant them about 2 inches apart and 1/2 inch below the soil surface. They can also be sown closer if necessary and then thinned later. Rows should be spaced about 18 inches apart. Radishes can do well in full sun or in partial shade, but regardless the soil should be loose, moisture retentive and well drained. The radishes that end up tasting the best are usually the ones grown in the cool of the spring. These plants may be susceptible to cabbage root flies, flea beetles, cabbageworms and clubroot.
Spinach Bloomsdale: Direct sow these seeds outside in the early spring, approximately 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected spring frost. They can also be fall planted. Plant them about 1 inch apart and 1/2 inch below the soil surface. The rows should be spaced between 12 and 18 inches apart. The seedlings should be kept well watered in dry weather. Thin out the weaker seedlings when they reach a height of 4 to 6 inches. They will grow well in full or partial sun. Green manure will aid with leafy growth. These plants may be susceptible to aphids, flea beetles, leafhoppers, leaf miners, downy mildew and fusarium wilt.
Squash Waltham Butternut: Direct sow these seeds outside only after the danger of the last frost has passed. Plant the seeds in hills of 2 to 3 plants per hill and at 4 to 6 feet apart. They should be planted about 1 inch below the surface of the soil. In your home garden, do not raise another variety of squash while you are growing this particular one, unless you know how to protect the female blossom before and after hand-pollinating and how to protect the male blossom until it has been used for pollination. These plants may be susceptible to powdery mildew, downy mildew, root rot, bacterial wilt, squash bug, cucumber beetles, cabbage looper, flea beetles, aphids, cutworms, thrips and blight.
Tomato Beefsteak: Sow seeds indoors approximately 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected spring frost, planting them about 1/4 inch below the soil surface. Sow 2 seeds per cell into a seed flat filled with seed-starting mix. Thin out the seedlings, transplanting them into 3-inch pots 8 weeks later. When appropriate to transplant, make sure to have 30 to 36 inches of space between plants. Once flowers start to form, water the plants daily and use a general liquid fertilizer weekly. Tomatoes will do best in a long, hot growing season. These plants may be susceptible to aphids, hornworms, flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, whiteflies, bacterial leaf spot, bacterial wilt, blight and fusarium wilt.
Watermelon Crimson Sweet: Direct sow these seeds outside in your garden after the danger of the last frost has passed. Plant them in hills of 2 to 3 plants per hill and 5 to 6 feet apart, about 1 inch below the surface of the soil. Watermelons will do much better in warmer areas of the country, but plastic mulch to warm the soil will help in cooler areas. They should be significantly separated from other varieties of watermelon and citron fruit, but it’s OK if they’re near muskmelons, cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins. These plants may be susceptible to leaf spot, downy mildew, fusarium wilt, powdery mildew, cabbage looper, flea beetles, aphids, cutworms, thrips and blight.
Zucchini Black Beauty: Plant 2 to 3 seeds per hill, 1/2 to 1 inch deep and spaced 3 to 4 feet apart in the late spring or early summer. After the emergence of the seedlings, thin them to 1 healthy plant per hill. Pick the squash regularly to encourage fruit development. The best flavor will come when the skin is still tender. Well-drained, fertile soil is important. Use mulch and feed with a general purpose fertilizer and water generously throughout the growing season. Feed weekly with a balanced liquid fertilizer once it’s flowering. These plants may be susceptible to aphids, cucumber beetles, leafhoppers, squash bugs, squash vine borers, mosaic virus and powdery mildew.